by Captain W. E. Johns



XII.         HARDWICK AGAIN  (Pages 233 – 243)


“It was about half-past nine the same morning when the Falcon landed at Hardwick airport after one stop at a small club aerodrome in northern France to refuel”.  Smyth is there staring upwards and with him is Cronfelt.  Smyth is astonished to see Biggles, having no doubt heard a report of his death.  Cronfelt tells Biggles “there is a report, you know, that you have been killed in a crash in France”.  Cronfelt says he never believed it.  Cronfelt asks Biggles to run him over to Paris right away – using the Falcon if need be.  Biggles says it will take time to get it ready and he wants a cup of tea and a wash.  Biggles says he will need three-quarters of an hour before he is ready.  Cronfelt says he will fetch his suit-case from Biggles’ office, but Biggles tells him that he will put it in the office safe and Cronfelt watches him do this.  Cronfelt is back by 10.25 am and asks to speak to Biggles in private.  He says his passport has lapsed and he wants to land at an unauthorized place to avoid customs.  Biggles says “I’m afraid there’s nothing doing.  I’m not prepared to risk losing my licence”.  Biggles is offered a £100 bribe.  Biggles glances out of the window and sees a low-wing monoplane, bearing German registration letters, make a neat landing.  Biggles turns down the bribe.  “My price, when I break the law, will be more than you will be prepared to pay”.  Biggles gets Cronfelt’s case and asks what is in the bag.  He then calls in four men, Colonel Raymond, Sir Guy Brunswick and two plain clothes police officers.  Cronfelt pulls out an automatic and fires point-blank at Biggles.  Biggles leaps aside and a plain-clothes man is hit in the shoulder.  Cronfelt runs out of the office and locks the door behind him.  Biggles goes out the window after him.  Cronfelt runs towards a tall, slim man in flying overalls by the low-wing monoplane that has just landed.  This stranger shoots Cronfelt and then fives five more shots into him whilst he is on the ground.  (Cronfelt staggered; The suit-case flew out of his hand, and he pitched forward - is the illustration on page 243).  He then takes Cronfelt’s suit-case and gets in the monoplane and it takes off.  “Biggles stopped and passed his hand wearily over his face.  “Did you ever see anything so cool as that in your life?” he gasped.  Raymond says “Pity that fellow got away with the suit-case; there must have been something very valuable in it”.  A flicker of a smile crossed Biggles’s face.  “There was,” he said quietly.